From the Library of Congress: "A spiritual is a type of religious folksong that is most closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the American South. The songs proliferated in the last few decades of the eighteenth century leading up to the abolishment of legalized slavery in the 1860s. The African American spiritual (also called the Negro Spiritual) constitutes one of the largest and most significant forms of American folksong."
Arreon Harley-Emerson, Director of Music & Operations at the Choir School of Delaware, joined Resident Dramaturg Gina Pisasale and members of the Spiritual Uprising creative team for a virtual Scoop panel earlier this year. In the video excerpt below, he runs through the history of Negro Spirituals and explains their particular connection to our region, as well as the songs' often-complex layers of meaning.
Arreon also discusses the significance of the term Negro Spirituals:
"I think it pays homage to the struggle of those who were enslaved – we don't call them slaves, we say they were enslaved, because this was not a choice. . . . and so they're still called Negro Spirituals in a lot of circles because the persons who were singing them, those who were enslaved, our ancestors, did not have the rights of white Americans."